In March 2019, three new Local Digital Skills Partnerships (Local DSPs) were announced in the following regions: the South East, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, and Cheshire and Warrington.
Local DSPs bring together businesses, charities, and public sector organisations to tackle local digital skills challenges. Supported by the Digital Skills Partnership, these partnerships are working to build thriving and inclusive local economies.
In this blog post, we hear from Sarah Williams, Regional Coordinator for the Cheshire and Warrington Digital Skills Partnership.
Me and my role in Cheshire & Warrington
I am Sarah Williams and I was recently appointed to the role of Digital Skills Partnership Coordinator for Cheshire and Warrington, delivered by the Local Enterprise Partnership. I am delighted to be working on this exciting programme that provides opportunities to work with businesses and key stakeholders in Cheshire and Warrington to accelerate and improve digital capability in the area.
Leading and managing the development of digital skills has featured in roles I have undertaken in post-compulsory education and training in the public and private sectors for the past 24 years. I have worked across a range of sectors including general and vocational education, higher education, work-based learning, and adult community learning. This has included supporting the delivery of education and training in an open and flexible learning environment that meets the needs of businesses and individuals.
The need for digital skills
The need for digital skills to extend and retain the area’s productivity advantage is a key theme in the emerging Cheshire and Warrington Local Industrial Strategy. From logistics to automotive to financial services, digital and STEM skills are fundamental to our local employers’ needs to grow and become more productive. Digital skills have been identified as a key, cross-cutting skills need that forms the cornerstone of every business in every sector and my work with the Digital Skills Partnership (DSP) will assist in the reskilling and upskilling of the existing workforce. Bentley Motors, headquartered in Crewe, are working closely with the DSP to inform this work.
Not enough young people in Cheshire and Warrington are pursuing digital or STEM qualifications and less than two percent of work experience placements are digital or STEM related. Working with the Cheshire and Warrington Pledge Partnership, the DSP will ensure that businesses are at the heart of inspiring and informing young people about new digital technologies and career opportunities so they can make informed decisions about the training and education that they choose.
The DSP will deliver projects that enable businesses and residents to acquire the digital skills they need for work or to function in an increasingly digital age, something I am passionate about.
Launching the Cheshire & Warrington Digital Skills Partnership
I am delighted to report that the Cheshire and Warrington Digital Skills Partnership launched in May 2019. Over 70 businesses attended the event which was held at Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre. Senior representatives from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport joined headline speaker Maggie Philbin OBE at the launch. The event provided opportunities to showcase some of the innovative work of existing partners and showcase the skills of our young people.
We also had a student from our local University Technical College speak at the event. Bentley were so impressed by her that she was invited to attend their apprentice assessment centre, and was subsequently offered an apprenticeship!
Further ambitions for the Partnership
I believe the success of the DSP will be in its ability to build further on the progress to date of the already-established partnerships and projects in the area, and close any gaps in provision. I am in the process of producing an initial draft roadmap for the DSP that sets out the digital landscape, objectives, enablers, stakeholders, methods and impact for the Cheshire and Warrington DSP.
I will be working with Cheshire and Warrington’s businesses and training providers to develop tailored training and education packages of support that will enable individuals to progress in work by reskilling and upskilling. A significant amount of this support will be available via our £30m Virtual Institute of Technology.
I am also pleased to report that the DSP will soon be announcing the successful applicants for the £5 million digital and STEM equipment fund that will support a series of projects that will transform digital and advanced engineering skills across Cheshire and Warrington.
Do get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can get involved. I am especially keen to engage with employers who able to provide opportunities to nurture and inspire future talent, for example through providing internships or speaking at local events.